You’re a Senior Accountant at Pacific Foundation Services. What inspired you to get into philanthropy?
My first job was in the private sector, and back then, I thought having a big corporate job meant I had arrived in some sense. But when the recession hit in 2008, I saw firsthand the effects of the economic downturn in my community—I was living in Santa Ana, in Southern California at the time—and I wanted to help. I found a homeless shelter that needed accounting staff and that’s really when my career shifted. I’ve always had an interest in communities having a voice and getting the resources they need, and by bringing my accounting skills to community-based work, I found a way to add value that was really needed. In nonprofits, I’ve seen professionals with enormous heart and commitment to service work, but sometimes the recordkeeping and administrative work gets sidelined, which inevitably harms the organization’s ability to function. While working with nonprofits, I grew curious about philanthropy. I’m inspired now to bring my perspective from the nonprofit sector to support PFS client foundations that are funding critical work in our communities
What topic in philanthropy is top of mind for you at the moment?
What keeps coming up for me is what it means to be a person of color in our country and our sector, and how we can work together to advance racial equity. On a deeper level, I think it’s important to examine what equity really means. To me, equity isn’t built-in intrinsically, it’s a composite of many things that shape our experiences—family, environment, community, access to resources (one being money), and the people we come in contact with. The question and the challenge for all of us is how to build equity when it’s comprised of many interrelated aspects. I think we have to start by acknowledging that complexity and bring that awareness forward as we work to build more equitable communities.
How does equity show up in your work at PFS?
At PFS, I’ve experienced equity in the way we relate to and work with each other. One example that feels different from my experience in other organizations is who attends board meetings. Here at PFS, each member of the team is invited to attend board meetings and that openness means we are all able to learn with and from each other about the strategy, process, and purpose of the work. It’s choices like that—leveling the playing field and providing equal access—that really begin to build equity.
Here in the Bay Area, our region is changing rapidly in both positive and challenging ways. As you consider the changes, what’s your greatest hope for the Bay Area?
My greatest hope is for more cross-sector collaboration to tackle things like the housing crisis, homelessness, the wealth disparity, and other challenges. It’s going to take government, industry, and community (which includes nonprofits and philanthropy) to rethink and reinvent the current way of doing business. I strongly believe that the key lies in getting groups working together, rather than against each other, to advance the common good across the Bay Area.
How has your work changed your outlook?
Work has definitely helped to shape my values and change the way I think about money, material resources, and my connection to community. As a younger person, I began my career with more of a “how can I get ahead perspective”, and with the shift in my work, my values have moved towards connection and concern for community. Thanks in large part to the many folks I’ve had the pleasure of working with, particularly in nonprofits, I now place greater emphasis on strengthening my community and growing who I am as a person.
Our world has benefitted from the leadership of so many change-makers, past and present. Who do you especially admire?
When I first joined PFS, I wanted to get a fuller understanding of philanthropy and I looked for perspectives that felt relatable. One of the folks I came in contact with is Edgar Villanueva; he’s an expert on social justice philanthropy and has illuminated some important issues through the lens of his upbringing and Native American heritage. In his work as a speaker and author of Decolonizing Wealth, he has really opened up a dialogue about the toll of wealth accumulation and what it means to create equity. I appreciate and admire the tough questions he asks; as Edgar says, if we want to push the needle in a more progressive way, we in philanthropy should be asking the communities we support what resources they need and how they need to receive them.
Before this interview, I asked you to think about PFS’s five organizational values—generosity, respect, integrity, inclusion, commitment and humility—and share how one of them shows up in your day-to-day work. Which one did you chose?
Generosity. People at PFS are incredibly generous with the knowledge they share and their willingness to help. Especially being in my first year, there’s a lot of institutional knowledge to absorb, especially when learning about the relationships we have with our client foundations. Everyone at PFS has been available to explain things and has really taken the time to help me understand my role as a Senior Accountant. In the past, I’ve worked in competitive cultures where people seek an edge and guard their skills or techniques. Here at PFS, it’s quite the opposite; everyone shares their skills and knowledge so that together, we can all do better work.
What’s something unexpected that you like to do outside of work?
My dad was a DIY-er so there are all sorts of do-it-yourself projects I like to do at home. I’ve taken down and installed new cabinetry, moldings, paneling, and built a raised garden bed. After working on a computer all day, I really enjoy working with my hands.
As you look to the future, what issue in our society feels especially urgent?
I’d say consumerism. We live in a cycle that is so consumer-driven, looking to the next new thing without really appreciating the things we have. It feels urgent and related to so many other pressing concerns, like climate change. The pursuit of money and material goods is such a strong driving force in our society—it feels urgent to call it out and see its effects on the larger set of issues we face.
And lastly, what’s on your nightstand?
I recently finished David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell. I love [Gladwell’s] approach, looking at the bigger picture and challenging conventional wisdom. Often, we think we have no chance against a “Goliath,” but Gladwell argues that if we take a step back (like “David”) and bring our unique experiences or skills to bear, we have an opportunity to change the game—it’s not about beating Goliath but moving past him. The book talks about trusting your gut and doing things in your own way. It’s so refreshing to read something that I think I knew in my core and have it affirmed with so many interesting examples and stories. The book shows you how people are able to tackle big issues in ways even they themselves didn’t believe possible.